South Africa


Free State mine dam burst floods kill three; four people critically injured

Free State mine dam burst floods kill three; four people critically injured
Damage to the homes and belongings of the community of Charlesville in Jagersfontein, Free State on 11 September 2022. A tailings dam burst at an abandoned nearby mine. Three people have been confirmed dead, along with four people critically injured and 28 hurt. (Photo: Supplied)

Gwede Mantashe declares a disaster and will cut short his trip to South Sudan. Three people have been confirmed dead and four, including a pregnant woman, are in critical condition. Twenty-eight others were injured while nine houses were swept away. A local church has opened its doors for shelter and accommodation and Gift of the Givers has made an urgent appeal for donations.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe has declared the Free State flooding from a mine dam wall collapse a disaster after it claimed three confirmed fatalities and several injuries. 

The disaster took place in the early hours of Sunday. It is understood that a dam wall collapsed, causing a mudslide near the Jagersfontein area causing flooding in several areas in the town.

mantashe charlesville

Damage to Charlesville in Jagersfontein, Free State on 11 September 2022. A tailings dam burst at a nearby abandoned mine. (Photo: Supplied)

In photo and video footage sent to Daily Maverick, residents can be seen expressing shock at the sight of homes, vehicles and livestock being swept away. 

 Speaking from South Sudan, in a short virtual media briefing, Mantashe said  he would abandon his trip and attend to the crisis alongside other officials: “I am just declaring that because of this disaster, I am cutting the trip short to come back home to be part of the management team of this disaster.”

Preliminary report  

As of Sunday evening, 28 people were confirmed to have sustained minor injuries, four people are in a critical condition and there are three fatalities, according to a preliminary report from Mantashe. The report also indicated nine houses had been swept away and 20 badly damaged.

Asked if the government would take responsibility and compensate the affected residents, Mantashe said this would be the responsibility of the mine owners, Jagersfontein Development (Pty) Ltd. It is understood that the company, which could not be reached for comment, bought the mine from De Beers, a unit of Anglo American more than 10 years ago.

charlesville jagersfontein

Damage to the homes and belongings of the community of Charlesville in Jagersfontein, Free State on 11 September 2022. (Photo: Supplied)

Free State provincial spokesperson Sipho Towa confirmed the three deaths.  

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, Kopanong municipality Mayor Xolani Tseletsele said residents and the provincial leadership had warned that such a disaster would one day occur, citing several mine dumps which threatened the safety of residents.  

 “We have been raising these issues consistently for the past 11 to 12 years that this particular dam which is a few metres away from the community would create problems for our community and it happened this weekend.” 

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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said she had noted the incident with sadness:

“The untold damages in and around the community of Charlesville in Jagersfontein are extensive and have negatively impacted the community. Some people are displaced, others lost property, whilst others are reported injured and missing.”

Meanwhile, MEC for social development in the province, Motlagomang Qabate, indicated that she had immediately dispatched a team of social workers and community development practitioners to assess the impact of the flooding and assistance for the evacuation to safe areas of those affected.  

charlesville damage

Damage to the homes and belongings of the community of Charlesville in Jagersfontein, Free State on 11 September 2022. (Photo: Supplied)

Qabate said social partners including Sassa, the Red Cross and Meals on Wheels had been on the ground making assessments to ensure interventions were immediately put in place and the needed relief would be provided to those affected. 

Power failure  

Amid the crisis, power utility Eskom announced that it had lost bulk supply to Centlec, the electricity distributor responsible for Jagersfontein town and township.  

damage charlesville

Damage to the homes and belongings of the community of Charlesville in Jagersfontein, Free State on 11 September 2022. (Photo: Supplied)

“In addition, four Eskom customers on the Fauresmith-Spitskop feeder, three customers in the Pompeii-Rietkuil feeder and the Jagersfontein Mine are without supply. We aim to restore electricity supply before the end of the day.”  

Eskom’s Rietkuil substation was also engulfed by the mud, resulting in a total loss of bulk supply to Centlec. 

“Due to the current situation in the Jagersfontein area and inaccessibility of our substation, it is impossible to estimate when supply will be restored or to determine the extent of the damage. Since Eskom’s telecommunication system is also affected by the flood, the impact on surrounding networks is still unclear,” said Eskom’s Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg. DM 

Appeal for Help

UPDATE: Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman from Gift of the Givers has called for donations of bottled water, food, blankets and mattresses as well as fodder, antibiotics and special feed for lambs.

“The area of Charlesville appears to be most affected with the sudden collapse of a mining dam wall in Jagersfontein pouring out thousands of litres of sludge. Houses, personal belongings and many sheep have been washed away, three bodies have been discovered and community members are missing. The cell phone towers have been damaged affecting communication, there is no electricity and not a drop of drinkable water. Some of the roads have been cut off,” he said. 

“A local church has opened its doors for shelter and accommodation. Immediate requirements include bottled water, bulk food for cooking, blankets, mattresses, clothing, hygiene items, sanitary pads and diapers. Fodder for sheep will also be required. Gift of the Givers teams are currently packing supplies at Bethlehem, Graaff-Reinet, Gqeberha and Cape Town, with the first delivery expected later today in Jagersfontein. 

“Gift of the Givers has received requests for assistance from Premier Sefora Ntombela, the SAPS, the farming community and local community members. The heads of the Free State Disaster Management, Markus Butler and Justin Colbert are Gift of the Givers Search and Rescue team members. We will be getting updates directly from them once the network is functional. Arrangements will be made to provide fodder for the sheep,” he said.

Drop off zones are on or people can phone 0800 786 911. – Estelle EllisDM




Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    As I have it, Johann Rupert and diamond mining partners bought the Jagersfontein operation from DeBeers a decade ago but sold it to Stargem in April 2022. One would have to look at the sale agreement to know whether there are any warranties in the 2022 sale, but otherwise : Rupert dodged a bullet by five moths. Stargem is an Indian company, one hopes they don’t just turn tail and flee from what is going to be an enormous cleanup and damages claim.

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